Friday, June 24, 2022

His Sacred Heart


Words have lives, they evolve. Such is the word, passion. It comes from the Latin passio meaning to bear and endure. It is the origin of the word patient. Later in its life, passion came to mean suffering. Further on, the passion would describe erotic love and soon after any ardent emotion or enthusiasm. How fitting then that we use the word passion with all of its nuances and resonance to describe the suffering and death of Jesus our Lord. For all that Jesus endures because of his tender love for us is most truly his passion. “For the joy that lay before him, Jesus endured the cross despising its shame.” Patiently, passionately, most ardently Jesus gives himself away to us, for us. And when he feels things, he’s moved to his very guts. Jesus is thus the perfect enfleshment of this passion of God’s self-forgetful love for us. He has come to establish an intimacy with us that signals our access to everything he has received from his Father, even the glory that is his as Beloved Son.* Jesus’ passion is to draw us into God. Today we celebrate the wonder of this divine passion for us perfectly enfleshed in his broken Heart.

In the First Reading Ezekiel the prophet has given us God’s self-description as loving shepherd, this, in turn, becomes a template for Jesus’ own understanding of his vocation as Beloved Son of the Father. Jesus is the good shepherd who will relentlessly search, run after and rescue all who are lost, even just one lost sheep. We might say, “Why bother? Why put the other ninety-nine at risk?” But this is who God is. And Paul assures us that this passionate desire of God in Christ for us is expressed in a great gush of graced love lavished upon us through God’s own Spirit – “poured into our hearts.” When we go to prayer, when we wake and walk and work and eat and breathe our day, God is drawing us, ceaselessly, searching and coming after us.

This desperation of a God in love, whose burning desire for us is unquenchable and unending, is in evidence constantly in the gospels. Jesus’ heart is constantly magnetized by desperation. A sobbing widow following the bier of her dead son knows she’s now without resource, destined now for a life of leftovers and condescension. I want to see, cries Bartimaeus. My son is at home dying, my dearest young slave, my daughter is possessed. Do something, I beg you. I’ve been to every doctor, tried every cure. But now, if only I touch his tassel. They have no wine, it’s only the first day of the celebration, and everything will be lost. Lord, wake up we’re going to drown, don’t you care. Lord, the one you love has died. And so best of all, last of all this dead-end that was always looming ahead will be destroyed by his passion and death on the cross. Because Jesus could not bear to have us live in fear of this final terror. He tramples down death by death because he is all Life. If only we knew the gift of God. If only understood his passion for us. He has given himself away totally, lavishly, foolishly, unreasonably.*

He cannot make us love him, still, he boldly exposes his broken Heart for us, longing as any man would for a loving response. He is not embarrassed by the vulnerability and desperation he reveals, he puts his Heart right out there. Perhaps all the tenderness and divine vulnerability are too much, perhaps even tasteless or off-putting. It is after all, way beyond a certain manly coolness and detachment. But Jesus loves us to folly, and he is not about to be evasive or diplomatic about it. How could he be? He’s on fire with it. And his love for us is not some disembodied theological premise or a refined, pious sentiment but a deeply felt, very raw, and real emotion. Jesus feels things deeply in his gut.

Today’s solemnity is all about this Divine Exposure. All falsehood, pretense, and sin; all the pain and suffering he endured and we endure, all the love we long for but dare not express, there too in his wounded Heart we see all the sorrow and suffering in Ukraine and Uvalde and Buffalo - it’s all right there in that Heart - exposed for all to see, in its bleeding, gut-wrenching beauty, the vulnerability of God. He shows us who he is, who God is, and who we are meant to be. The invitation is to go and do likewise – to love until it hurts, though often we might like to think there is an easier way. In the wounded Heart of Jesus, we see our reality and our sublime destiny, as individuals, as Church, as monastic community.

If like Jesus we dare to open our wounded hands and hearts to one another, with nothing to hide - at ease with the awkwardness and embarrassment of loving, at home with our vulnerability the kingdom can happen. At best two desperations will meet. Jesus’ desperate passion to share God’s love and our desperate need for the healing, grace, and love that only Father, Son, and Spirit can bestow. We cry out in a confident appeal that is always the echo of God’s first desperate longing for us.

In the humility of his passion for us, Jesus has come to give himself away. As we gather together around this Table to consume Christ’s wounded body and drink the blood of God poured out for us, we find ourselves once again overpowered by the mystery of his love, by the unquestionable reality of the mystery of a God who is love,* a God who even now desperately desires to offer us his precious body and blood even his wounded heart.

The Sacred Heart by Odilon Redon. References: 1. Sandra Schneiders. 2 Robert Barron. 3. Adapted from Karl Rahner. Today's homily by one of the monks.